St. John’s Institute to bring fight to the Vatican

Officials of beleaguered St. John’s Institute (SJI) popularly known in Bacolod City as Hua Ming, saw a ray of hope in their cause after the president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) wrote Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon favoring the school.

“After studying our letter to them, its president Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ and Fr. Adolfo Dacanay their canon lawyer, wrote the bishop (Buzon) that the school has no fault that stripped us of our status as a Catholic school,” Benjamin Lopue, SJI president said.

“We thought that we already reached a ‘dead end’ but we still had a chance because of their opinion in our favor,” Lopue said.

He said that they will elevate their cause to higher authorities of the Catholic Church.

Lopue said that they are also seeking an audience with the Papal Nuncio as well as with the Sacred Congregation of Schools at the Vatican in May, this year.

In his letter to Buzon dated January 5, 2018, copies of which were obtained by the media yesterday, Tabora pointed out that SJI is “a Catholic school in good standing.”

“Despite the tensions between the parish and the school in intervening years, the recognition of its catholicity was never withdrawn. SJI’s formal request that its Queen of Peace Church be returned to the status of school need not be construed as its spurning the Diocese and its valued catholicity, nor as a disrespect for the parish structure itself, nor as a warrant from the Diocese to ‘pullout’ of SJI, not as a necessary step to restore the school to its valid operation without the burden of conflicting Catholic structures at SJI,” Tabora said.

In May last year, Buzon in Circular Letter no. 2017- 008 stripped SJI of its status as a Catholic school.

This developed after the SJI Board requested the Diocese that the Queen of Peace Church located within its school campus at the Capitol Shopping Center area be reverted back from a parish church to a school chapel.

“To revert the Queen of Peace Parish, to use their own word, is to ‘de-parish’ the same,” the bishop said.

He said that he proposed “that a memorandum of agreement between the diocese and the school be crafted in order to ensure cooperation and proper coordination between the parties involved.

“Our stance has always been one of partnership and collaboration,” Buzon said.

He said that “the diocese has served the mandate of establishing the Chinese apostolate in the surrounding area, from the beginning up to the present,” while adding that “to remove the parish from Hua Ming is to negate the original intent of the donation that is to serve the furtherance of the Chinese apostolate.”

“Unfortunately, the BOT of the SJI, does not agree with our position and has declared that their demand to de-parish the Queen of Peace Parish is final and non- negotiable,” he also said.

“All this time, we have constantly made known to the BOT to respect our life and ways as Church, that is our ‘autonomy’ with its accompanying elements namely: freedom of access to and from the Church, our need for provision and space for facilities and offices and non-interference in the conduct of our internal life.”

“We never intended to leave Hua Ming. We are being sent out,” he said.

The decree will remove from the Queen of Peace Parish its status as an oratory for three reasons:

it has ceased to be a parish church and a shrine;

it has ceased to be a school chapel; and being under the control of a private group for all intents and purposes, simply be considered a private structure or building.

“This means that the Blessed Sacraments will be removed from the church and the celebration of Masses and the sacraments will not be allowed therein at anytime,” the decree said.

“Because of the pull-out, no priests or religious congregations are to be assigned to SJI. No masses will be said inside the campus for the duration of an indefinite moratorium subject to the prudent determination of the Bishop.”

Tabora said that he will bring the matter to the attention of the Episcopal Commission on Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.*(NDB)